Deal With the Devil by Gerald Costlow
Mining my Hillbilly Roots
As a writer, sooner or later you realize that some of your richest material can come from your childhood and the people who raised you. When I decided to place my first series of supernatural romance adventure stories in the
Appalachia foothills, I mined my own memories of stories told to me by my extended family to create a detailed, authentic world.
My family migrated north from the Appalachia foothills into central
on what became known as the Hillbilly Highway, seeking jobs in the steel mills. By the way, I never heard the word “ Ohio Appalachia” used by my family. The Appalachian mountains stretch from New York to but my folks only knew they lived either “out on the ridge” or “down in the holler” depending on which part of the foothills they’d staked out. Missouri
|My mother, age 5, in front of their cabin.|
That's her younger brother and her Uncle with her.
Their old horse died that summer.
So we’re not
So what was it really like, growing up in the Appalachian foothills? In one word: struggle. People don’t try to raise their families crammed into a two room cabin halfway up a mountain with no running water or electricity because they enjoy the rustic life. If they had money, they’d buy a homestead with some actual flat land to farm or move to town. When they did finally move, it was out of desperation. You survived by growing and canning your own garden produce, raised a hog or two to butcher, had chickens for eggs and Sunday meals, and most of the meat you put on the table came from hunting and fishing. Just getting by each month was always a struggle.
The characters and world of my
Appalachia series reflect the people and world I observed firsthand or as described in long conversations with my Grandparents. It’s not at all like the stereotype, but then again you can see where outsiders got their ideas. In the 1920s, while the rest of the nation had flush toilets and electricity and telephones and automobiles, the Hillbilly world remained stuck in the past century. It wasn’t until the New Deal following the great depression that any effort at all was put into extending the benefits of modern society to these people. Think of it as a time capsule to our frontier days existing side by side with Prohibition era roaring twenties. It is a treasure trove of possibilities and a world ripe for adventure. I hope you enjoy reading the series as much as I enjoy writing it.
So what have you mined from your own roots for your stories?